Brew & A: Dustin "DisturbdChemist" Palm

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If you ever find yourself in the pages of HomeBrewTalk thinking to yourself "Wow, we have a really heady crowd!" you would not be alone. Everyone has a different way of looking at brewing. Some brew from the gut like we learned with Andrew "BillyKlub" Knapp. Others take a more analytical approach to the art and that's where Dustin "DisturbdChemist" Palm comes in. A fellow Texan, scientist, and most importantly a brewer, I got to sit down and learn more about how he got started, his plans for the future, and what he loves most about brewing.
Austin: How did you start brewing?
Dustin: I cant really say how I really got start into brewing. I just basically fell into this hobby. After college I think I saw an ad online, and read up on the hobby, started learning the basics, and now you see my posts and everything that I'm making from meads and sours to having a bourbon barrel in my house. It is a very addictive hobby, but fun and rewarding.

Austin: Did you start out online putting together your system and beers, or did you find a LHBS?
Dustin: First I started online getting the ingredients and supplies. I started out BIAB, so I just bought a turkey fryer at Academy. Got a bigger pot when I needed to upgrade. Now, I live close to a LHBS so I have been going there for my ingredients. Its easier and I can brew randomly without waiting and watching for the man in brown to arrive.

Austin: What's your favorite beer?
Dustin: I cant really say I have a favorite one. There are ones that really blew me away but again not one stands out. I love everything from RIS to super sours and everything in between. I'm not a picky guy. Some are so so but I still enjoy them. Also DO NOT base a beer on hype or rating. If you want to drink it, DRINK IT! Don't let someone else drink it and speak for you.

Austin: What do you feel is the most overrated beer?
Dustin: There are many beers that are overrated and people flock and buy out the store and hoard . I do not buy the hype on beers. I try not to make it seems like this beer is magical (like that scene in Beerfest) and then my expectations are too high, and then it seems like a disappointment when I have it if it does not meet it. You see the example of this by reading some online reviews of beers *does not meet the hype*. Its because they set the bar extremely high and just gave the beer a bad mark on that, though it is still a great beer. Beers like Pliny, Heady, Dark Lord, or anything with artisan/ barrel aged or brewery on a farmstead on a hill are great beers/brewery, but sell out instantly and are not cheap because everyone is trying to get their hands on them. Thus, their trade value goes up or they sell for insane amounts online. But to pick one, I'd say Hill Farmstead. I tried a few of their beers and they were good and enjoyable but it does not meet the hype at all. Nothing special.
Austin: What's one piece of your brew setup you can't live without?
Dustin: About a month ago I would say my wort chiller but now is my HLT. I got an electric hot water heater from my friends at a local brewery (B-52 Brewing). They were not using it and asked if I wanted it. I couldn't say no like other homebrewers before me. The only pain is its a 220V but heats water like crazy. 70F to 140F in about 5 mins, and it also saves on propane. Cant complain at all.
Austin: What's the worst product you've ever used?
Dustin: I have been lucky on the products I use but if I have to name one, it would be the Belgian corks from Austin Homebrew. They were just poor quality and broke apart. Austin is a great place to shop and I had very little issues from them.
Austin: Why do you homebrew?
Dustin: To get DRUNK! Just kidding. I like the science and processes behind brewing. Being a scientist by profession made me enjoy what is actually going on underneath the surface. Also partly to make what I want ,when I want. Like some of my meads; Chocolate/ habanero, lemon/ basil, jalapeno/ cucumber which is popular on this thread which is still astounding to see that. Feed back I get from friends and local breweries is a big way to keep brewing and making your beer better and better. Its just an awesome and amazing hobby.
Austin: What's your homebrewing style - extract, partial mash, all-grain, biab, or ?
Dustin: I jumped to all grain pretty fast. My first three brews were: Extract, partial mash, and all grain. For people who want to go all grain, do BIAB. Low cost, makes great beer, easy to do. I just switched to a 3 vessel system with a electric water heater, igloo, and the boil kettle. My efficiency is going up and adding new processes. Every batch I usually change one thing and see if it makes my life easier and make better beer. Last Sunday I brewed 2 beers in 7 hours. Start to finish. Still amazed by it
Austin: How do you decide what to change?
Dustin: Basically what my gut tells me too. I was a cook in a previous job and know how to use spices but sometimes that is not always the case lol. I make a recipe that looks good, brew the beer and drink it. If there is something I like to change like hops, bitterness, roastiness or something I did not like in the beer, I'll make changes for the next version. For the brewing part I change little parts to try to make my day easier and make less mistakes.
Austin: Tell us about one of your most memorable homebrewing experiences
Dustin:The most memorable is winning my first metal at a competition. I didn't even expect it to win (3rd) but it was a good feeling. Got 3rd again in the same category with a different cider the next year. I am never ready for competitions so I haven't many to enter. This year I am ready. I got a bunch I want to enter, and I think I have a good chance on winning. One in particular hope to win best of show. I know I'm reaching, but people are saying that the beer is better than a Jester King beer of the same style. lol

Also, winning a competition to brew at a local brewery (Buffalo Bayou). Got to brew a batch on their system and it was amazing. Just like a homebrew set up just about 30X the amount. The day flew by and wish it was like ground hogs day but brewing the same beer would get annoying.
Austin: Any advice on getting ready for competitions?
Dustin: Make sure you bottle and try your beer before entering. If you are bottling from the keg or natural carb, check for over carbonation or any off flavors so you know that you will be sending what you want the judges to taste. Also, bring them in cold and at the very last minute because you do not know how they will handle your beer. For better or for worst. Don't be let down on the score sheet. Its all opinions, the Jalapeno/Cucumber mead on here got a 23 at one competition. One judge said they do not like peppers, so why did he judge it? I sent the same mead to a mead competition and got a 43, which should of placed but I heard the second round they played favorites and snubbed mine out. Just enter what you have and keep entering and eventually you will win.
Austin: Which do you plan on entering this year?
Dustin: I'm planning to enter a mild, Scotch ale, gose, sour stout, 100% Brett rye white ipa, 100% brett saison, 100% brett saison dry hopped with Motueka, Chocolate/ Habanero mead, a cider and I think that is it might have another one I am forgetting. I am finally ready this time lol.
Austin: Describe the perfect beer - style, aroma, flavor, etc.
Dustin: The perfect beer is one I find amazing not anyone else. If I love the aroma, flavor, etc. is all that matters. A perfect beer is so suggestive and opinionated especially with all these rating sites. Then there is no such thing as a perfect beer. Also why describe a perfect beer? If its perfect then you cannot improve on it. Then it is pointless to brew it.
Austin: So then there is no perfection, only striving to it? What particular quality do you find most enticing?
Dustin: That my beers are getting better and better each time I re-brew it or a new recipe that first time turned out amazing. Hope it wont be going down hill any time soon or ever haha.
Austin: What made you decide to brew mead?
Dustin: One of my uncles mentioned mead to me. He liked to go to the Renaissance fair. We have one of the biggest ones in the country near me, so naturally, I brewed my first batch, I believe a JOAM. Which is an orange spiced mead on this site. I have not made a plain ol' mead because I think that is boring and needs to be spiced up. I brew mead 1 gallon at a time and sometimes a 3 gallon batch. Honey is expensive so that is why i like to do 1 gallon batches, its a cheap way to experiment and can get the ABV up to 18% on some. That packs a wallop and I know. Last years Ren Fest. Stuff hits hard lol
Austin: How do you decide on flavor combinations?
Dustin: It just pops into my mind sometimes. I think 'what flavors that go well together' and most times it works. Other times, I get it from food I come across and love the combo. If you do one gallon batches, experiment in some flavors and try new things out. Cheap, easy, and everyone loves it. Some of my mead people turn a nose up at it until they try them and fall in love with them.
Austin: What's the greatest challenge when brewing mead?
Dustin: The greatest challenge of mead is the wait. Some meads take forever before they are ready. For meads time heals all wounds and helps a lot. Some of my meads are surprisingly quick though. Just a couple of months even at 17%. Weird but I say just try them every so often until you think its time to bottle and share. Use your opinion and taste buds to decide. When you enjoy it, enjoy it with people. If you dont, wait.
Austin: What's your dream brew rig, and how would you assemble it?
Dustin: My dream rig would be a 20bbl system with all the bells and whistles lol. Every homebrewer wishes to go pro and I'm no different. The market is closing up because everyone is opening one. Some good, others not so good. It'll be awesome to own one. On a homebrew scale, I'd love if it was more automated. Less labor equals more beer drinking
Austin: What is the one piece of advice you wish someone would've giving you when you first started?
Dustin: Don't do it because its addictive and your bank account will suffer! lol
For advice I wouldn't wish for any advice. The fun is figuring it out on your own and make the process unique to you. Even if you screw up a batch *raises a hand*
Austin: You seem real focused on the joys of trial and error. You said you're scientist? What do you do? Do you feel that allows you a better understanding of home brewing?
Dustin: I got a Chemistry degree from Sam Houston State and currently working at Baker Hughes as a Research Scientist. I just love how things work and I have always been curious. I think it does get me somewhat of a better understanding of homebrewing because of the knowledge from chemistry (chemical processes) and to experiment/Research on different beer or new processes. You know, try something new and exciting. Also, being a scientist is just playing with chemicals and letting acid eat things. The only thing from that and fooling around is you have to write everything down as a scientist. lol
If i can I would. Be instant, quick, If you forget you have a wortcile haha
I stuck my hand in Liquid Nitrogen before. Fun stuff. Wish I have some to play with! Freezing a racket ball and see it shatter is also fun.. *Note to self- get liquid nitrogen*
A really different point of view you have there. Maybe someday I'll have to find some local raw wildflower honey to brew one up?...
Great Brew Talk! Would love to meet Dustin DisturbdChemist one day. I think we live close to each other as I live near Lake Conroe/Woodforest sub. Thanks guys!